Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho, Harry Kane - Five players in the spotlight

Sports Mole looks at five players who will be in the spotlight as Premier League football returns this weekend following the international break.

Domestic football returns to the Premier League this weekend following the first international break of the season, and with it comes the usual scrutiny which surrounds the world's biggest league.

In the first match since the end of the summer transfer window, some players will be looking to settle into new clubs while others need to reintegrate themselves having seen their desired moves away fail to materialise.

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at five players who will be in the spotlight this week.



Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez looking unhappy during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Arsenal on August 27, 2017© SilverHub

Alexis Sanchez must be used to being the centre of attention by now, but Saturday's match at home to Bournemouth will be the first time the Chilean features for Arsenal since seeing his proposed move to Manchester City fall through.

Sanchez is understood to have been desperate to leave the Gunners before last Thursday's transfer deadline, but despite Man City submitting a £60m bid for a player who will be free to leave next summer if he doesn't agree a new contract, the club refused to sell.

Arsenal's failure to land Thomas Lemar from AS Monaco may have played a significant part in Sanchez remaining at the club but, whatever the circumstances, he will be at the Emirates Stadium until at least January and must now prove to manager Arsene Wenger and the fans that he is committed to the cause.

The 28-year-old's season is yet to really get going, with his first and only start for the Gunners so far coming in the 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool before the international break, but he should now be further along the road to full fitness and is expected to feature again when Bournemouth visit.

A home match against a team yet to pick up a single point this season looks to be the perfect opportunity for both Arsenal and Sanchez to return to form, although the attacker's work rate and desire were questioned in some quarters during his transfer stand-off.



Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho in action during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Burnley on March 12, 2017© SilverHub

Philippe Coutinho was the golden boy of Liverpool last season, but his reputation has taken a hit amongst fans so far this term following his apparent efforts to engineer a move to Barcelona this summer.

The Brazilian handed in a transfer request at Anfield and there were even suggestions that he had overstated a back injury in order to avoid playing for the club during their opening three fixtures - claims that seemed to be validated when he featured for Brazil with no problem during the international break.

Coutinho's desired move to the Camp Nou never materialised, though, with Liverpool rejecting a string of bids well in excess of £100m for the playmaker, who only signed a new long-term contract at Anfield last year.

Coutinho has since returned to first-team training and, while manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed that he will play no part during this weekend's Premier League clash with Manchester City, the 25-year-old could make his first club appearance of the season against Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Like Sanchez, Coutinho may have work to do if he is to win over the club's fans once again - particularly considering the form Liverpool have been in during his absence.



Harry Kane

Harry Kane in action during the Premier League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea on August 20, 2017© SilverHub

Harry Kane was able to shake off the one-season wonder tag at the first available opportunity after breaking into the Tottenham Hotspur first team a couple of years ago, but the August curse has been tougher to rid himself of.

The England international once again drew blanks during the opening month of the season, failing to score against Newcastle United, Chelsea and Burnley despite playing every single minute of Tottenham's season so far.

If anything, Kane enhanced the reputation that he struggles in August by scoring on September 1 for England during the recent international break, going on to notch a brace against Malta and get himself off the mark for the season.

The 24-year-old's goalscoring ability is no longer in doubt - he has won the Premier League's Golden Boot award in both of the past two seasons and has 78 Premier League goals to his name - already more than the likes of Eric Cantona, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

However, he will be desperate to get off the mark for Spurs when they face Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday following another slow start to the campaign.



Virgil van Dijk

Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk in action during the Premier League clash with West Bromwich Albion at St Mary's on December 31, 2016© SilverHub

Another wantaway player who failed to force through a move this summer, Virgil van Dijk has now been accepted back into the fold at Southampton having been banished from the first-team squad for the opening weeks of the season.

Van Dijk made no secret of his desire to leave the Saints and join Liverpool before last Thursday's deadline, but Southampton refused to sell their star defender and his return to training suggests that both parties are willing to let bygones be bygones following a disrupted summer.

Fitness is now the major concern for Van Dijk, who has not played a competitive match since January after missing the final months of last season through injury.

The Dutch defender is closing in on a return to fitness, but Saturday's match at home to Watford could come too soon for him and he may instead set his sights on next weekend's trip to Crystal Palace as a possible date for his return.

Van Dijk must first convince both manager Mauricio Pellegrino and the club's fans that his focus is solely on Southampton, though, having claimed during the summer that the club were unable to match his ambition.



Wayne Rooney

A dejected Wayne Rooney during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Everton on August 27, 2017© SilverHub

Just when it all seemed to be going well for Wayne Rooney again, the former England skipper found himself embroiled in another media storm last week when he was arrested for drink-driving.

Rooney has scored two goals in his opening three Premier League appearances since returning to Everton, and took the decision to end his record-breaking international career in order to prolong his spell at his boyhood club.

However, after the news emerged that Rooney had been charged with drink-driving the 31-year-old was called in for showdown talks with manager Ronald Koeman, who admits that he was "very disappointed" in the former Manchester United man.

Koeman did also confirm that Rooney will play against Tottenham this weekend, though, and England's all-time leading goalscorer will look to respond to the latest controversy in his career by continuing his good form on the pitch.

It is certainly not the first time that Rooney will have taken to the field with an undesirable story hanging over his head, and he will be desperate to write some positive headlines when the Toffees welcome Spurs to Goodison Park.

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2Manchester UnitedMan Utd65101721516
3Chelsea6411125713
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs6321105511
5Liverpool63211211111
6Watford6321910-111
7Huddersfield TownHuddersfield62315329
8Burnley62316519
9Newcastle UnitedNewcastle63036519
10West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom52214408
11Southampton622245-18
12Arsenal521278-17
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton621357-27
14Everton6213411-77
15Swansea CitySwansea612337-45
16Stoke CityStoke6123510-55
17Leicester CityLeicester6114912-34
18West Ham UnitedWest Ham6114613-74
19Bournemouth6105411-73
20Crystal Palace6006013-130
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